Friday, August 30, 2013

The Fields

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Portland's new city park at the north end of the Pearl District is named, pretentiously, "The Fields Neighborhood Park". It completes a planned chain of city parks that also includes Jamison Square and Tanner Springs a few blocks to the south, and despite the twee name, this is actually the least pretentious of the three. The center of the park is just a big grassy oval that serves as the neighborhood dog park. A smaller area off to one side is dedicated to some high-end playground equipment. That seems odd, but I suppose the dog park to playground ratio reflects the actual demographics of the Pearl District. In any case, there's also a landscaped area with flowers at the north end of the park, and a few small and unobtrusive public art pieces scattered around the park. The public art will get its own post here, because I get two blog posts out of the place if I do that, and I feel twice as productive that way. I'm sure I'd sound more like a credible Real Blogger if I insisted it was my SEO content optimization strategy or something. And as far as I know that might even be a valid strategy. I haven't looked into it. I don't do this for a living, so I actively avoid the whole subject of how to get more page views. To me that feels like being needy and trying too hard, and the whole business feels vaguely embarrassing just thinking about it.

People more cynical than I -- who do exist, believe it or not -- might argue the park is less pretentious than its elder siblings because the economy tanked before they built it, and the condo bubble money just wasn't there. There may be a grain of truth there; the slideshow above includes a couple of photos of a design diagram the city posted during construction. It provisionally included an "Urbanology Trail", whatever that is, along the northern edge of the park, budget permitting. That doesn't seem to have come to pass, although this article insists the current trail next to the railroad tracks is the Urbanology Trail. I don't know what an Urbanology Trail is supposed to look like, and maybe nobody does, so that could actually be true as far as I know. At one point the city also had grand plans for a pedestrian bridge over Naito Parkway to the redeveloped Centennial Mills building. That hasn't come to pass either, although we can blame this one on the still-not-redeveloped Centennial Mills building, which is a whole other tar pit.

For several years before the park went in, "The Fields" was merely an un-landscaped big grassy field, awaiting city funds to make the place fancy. Then, as now, it served as the neighborhood dog park. To brighten things up a little and raise the tone and such, the area temporarily hosted an abstract sculpture titled Rational Exuberance. Which, sited as it was near the heart of Portland's real estate bubble, was possibly the most ironic thing ever. It's gone now. No idea where it went. I'm going to guess a well-heeled private collector has it now, just going by the name.

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